Jessica Yellin – Founder of News Not Noise

Episode 218

Getting the news that really matters is what everyone wants? Hear how Jessica Yellin, Founder of News Not Noise built a business on Instagram and found to help us all learn what is important to know in current events. Be inspired as you listen to this great episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be. I want to just make sure you will get knocked down but just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show, though, join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, it’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show and I am here with my next guest. I’m so excited. We have Jessica Yellin here who is the founder of news, not noise. And I’m so excited to hear more of her journey and more of her story we both were chatting right before she was at CNN as well. And as many of you know, I started my career by way back in the 90s, at CNN, and so many Ted Turner stories as well. But definitely Jessica was a little higher level than Ben, I was at CNN with friends, a different role. But Jessica was the former chief White House correspondent for CNN. She is a Peabody Gracie, an Emmy Award winning political journalist. And she is she really wanted to create a place where people could easily digest information that they didn’t have to sit there and listen for, you know, 15 minutes or 30 minutes and, and she wanted a place where she could kind of give, I guess, the cliffnotes for exactly what was really important to be learning. So she posted her first video on Instagram in 2018. Another incredible story of starting online and starting, starting small too. And that really was the first piece before it became what it is today. And she also has a book that I’m so excited to. I honestly have not read it yet. But after she was just sharing it with me. I’m really excited called savage news of fictional novel, which follows the main character, Natalie savage as she covers the White House news. So, Jessica, so excited to have you here.

Jessica Yellin 2:36
Thank you so much for having me. And for that fantastic introduction. Wow.

Kara Goldin 2:40
Yeah. So how often are you on this side of the, I feel like I have a lot to live up to here, actually. I mean, I have got to straighten up a little bit. And you’re so you were, I just admire when I’ve watched you in the past, I mean, what you’ve done, so it’s super, super incredible.

Jessica Yellin 3:00
That’s so kind and it’s a mutual fangirl situation. I’m a huge fan of you and what you’ve accomplished and what you’re putting out into the world now. So thank you for

Kara Goldin 3:07
having you. Thanks so much. So did you always know that you were going to be a journalist? Did that you would be working in the White House? I mean, did you know that you would be an entrepreneur? All of these things I always ask like, way back in the beginning, were there any Inklings that that was going to be what Jessica was going to be doing?

Jessica Yellin 3:30
When I was very young, I wanted to be a novelist, like Jackie Collins. I wanted to write a wild romance novels about powerful women who run companies. And then I wanted to be a fashion designer, I did not know that I would be a journalist. However, if you like, I go back and I put it all together. My dad was an entrepreneur. My dad valued enormously politics and civic culture. And my family emphasized the importance of participating in society to prove it. So I really ended up I thought, by the time I was out of college or in college, that I’d be a politician. And we can discuss why I decided maybe it’s better to watch the politicians than work for them.

Kara Goldin 4:17
That’s awesome. And so you, you started your first job. We were just talking about this, and broadcast journalism.

Jessica Yellin 4:26
My quick trajectory is I went from Orlando and I got a job in Tampa in Tampa. I said I want to be the political reporter and I ended up in Florida the year 2000 democratic headquarters in Tallahassee, the recount happen so I covered the whole Florida recount. I got from there to MSNBC where I worked overnights, so my big break into TV, you know, national news was working from 11pm to 8am on MSNBC. And then I did that from New York for a year. And then I hopped over to ABC News, where I worked the overnights on weekends. And then Good Morning America on the weekdays. And at every opportunity. Whenever I met with a news executive, I said, my goal is to be a White House correspondent. And they would say, well, that’s cute. But you’re covering the Jason Williams murder trial. Or you’re covering the man who asked his wife and kids to death and Utah for the next three weeks, whatever it was. And at every opportunity, when I could, I’d say, I want to go to the White House. And they knew that. So there was one day when the White House correspondent for ABC got a promotion, she became the Good Morning America anchor in New York, and they had a sudden opening. And I got a phone call that said, Don’t get excited. That’s how it opened. Don’t get excited, okay? We need somebody to fill in at the White House. The job is not yours. You’re just filling in, can you get to Washington, and I ended up I went there for two weeks, two weeks became two months, two months became five months finding that like, you can stay. And then I was covering the White House. And I covered the second term of the book, Bush, White House, George W. Bush. And once I was there, I jumped over to CNN and I in 2007. And I covered Obama and I covered Congress, and then I eventually covered the White House again.

Kara Goldin 6:13
What was the most surprising thing about covering the White House? I mean, being in that position? I mean, that is just such a, you know, it’s just it’s gold, right? I mean, I don’t know how else to describe it to so many people being able to do that, like what do you think was kind of the the hardest part about that?

Jessica Yellin 6:31
One thing that’s challenging is first, I will say there are moments where you never lose the magic, right? Like any job becomes kind of like, every day over time, right? I clock into the White House, I’m walking through the West, we you know, to the west Wingate, you know, you go into the briefing room, and it’s just old hat after a while. But there are these moments in your day where you’re called out to watch Air Force One land, get on Air Force One or watch it lands and watch the helicopter land and marine one. And all over again, you feel like this surge of patriotism, I just I don’t know how to describe it. So that always is kind of magic. And it also is a reminder that you know, you’re not there to do a just a job, right? Like you’re there because you’re representing the people in a way the people right, like holding our leaders to account for the people. And that constant reminder is important. I mean, I could tell you, like it’s way less glamorous than anybody might think, you know, the Yeah, it’s Wait, like, I can’t tell you how many days I ate entirely out of the snack machine. Yeah, or there’s bomb threats, and you go on lockdown for hours, and you can’t leave no matter what you’re supposed to be doing in the world, you got to stay. So it’s a crazy experience, and very exciting.

Kara Goldin 7:52
Well, I think like, the key thing that I would imagine is sometimes things come up and you didn’t wake up in the morning thinking that that was you know what was gonna happen, right? And, and you’ve just got to adjust. Which is, I think the key to being a great entrepreneur is that you’ve got to be able to think on your feet and such great training for eventually what you would end up doing. So in 2018, you posted your first news, not noise video to your Instagram page, how did you think about doing this? I mean, what this is, this is wild.

Jessica Yellin 8:27
So at the time, I was I’ve been working in the news for, I guess, 17 years at that point. And I had this intuition, this experience that when I was out covering campaigns, especially I would interview swing voters who are often women, and they had a million questions about the news. And felt like the way we were telling the news didn’t speak to them. They cared a lot, but they’re like, I just don’t care what one candidate is yelling at the other, I want to know who’s gonna make my health care costs go up, who’s gonna provide coverage for you know, childcare, like they wanted it told differently. They want it and they couldn’t take the rage and negativity, the yelling on the panels, the endless anger, and they’re like, it just leaves me feeling so bad, panicked and anxious, and confused, I don’t engage. On the other hand, I’d go home back to DC and say, you know, can we tell the news differently for this audience, and I couldn’t get anybody to hear it right to buy in. That wasn’t, it’s not how it’s done in the business in the business conflict cells. And so I kept trying to do differently, I couldn’t find a foothold to do it differently. When I left I had this idea that there’s got to be another way to tell information that leaves you feeling okay and informed and what’s just the right venue to do it. And for a while I struggled with where should I do it? How should I do it and some of my friends were like, just put your face on Instagram. On your phone and start talking. What do you like? What? What am I going to say? And I was sitting at lunch with a friend of mine who had asked me why something’s happening in Congress, and I explained it. And she’s like that, that you just explained to me in two minutes. The thing I totally don’t get forever, say that to your phone. And I decided to do it on Instagram, because at the time, there was no news on Instagram, it was a very friendly environment, like there wasn’t the toxicity of some other platforms. And it was female focused, and I really thought the audience would be largely female. So I honestly like it was like being back in Orlando, where as a one man band, I took my phone, I went in my backyard, I talked to the phone about a story and I posted it. And the few friends like that were watching at that time at a very small lake. A couple 100 people following were so supportive and happy and encouraging. They’re like, that was amazing. Maybe next time you want to go indoors, it kind of looks like you’re in a jungle. Who’s outdoors, surrounded by leaves? They’re like, what are you doing?

Kara Goldin 11:05
That’s hysterical. But uh, so

Jessica Yellin 11:08
and I took that video down everybody’s like, Can we see your first video so embarrassed? I don’t know where that is.

Kara Goldin 11:14
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Jessica Yellin 14:21
Well, at first I was putting myself on camera every day. And that’s just too taxing. Like, I can’t produce my own videos all the time. But I also I realized what it takes to make a news not noise story. Like there’s a specific way of telling the story. There’s a specific approach. And there’s understanding topic and framing. But what I started doing is learning to post in the grid explainers on things that are kind of evergreen are very important. Always. I do stories that are on sort of more timely news. And then I make videos when there’s really big stuff happening that you need someone to explain During the election, and when COVID first broke, I was doing that every day, sometimes lives. And the goal was just to sort of say, Hey, I know you’re hearing this everywhere. Here’s like, the, here are the facts, we actually know. Here’s what we don’t know, here’s where you can get more information and what we understand about what’s coming next. So it’s not very, like, there’s not a lot of speculation, there’s not emotional language, it’s very much just like the meat and potatoes of the information so that you can go out and get more information on your own, if you want, with a real understanding of the foundation of this story. That’s awesome.

Kara Goldin 15:40
So obviously, you you had a good background to be able to do this. But do you think that do you think your passion for information and sort of learning this over time, what people really wanted helped you to be able to launch your network? Yeah, totally.

Jessica Yellin 16:01
Like, I look at what you do, and I was like, I need your skills, like, how do you market to consumers? And what’s the right like, I’m so shy about asking for money or selling things, you know, like, those are the spaces where I’m not. But what I know. And just Intuit is how to get somebody from not understanding a thing to understanding it. And I find enormous satisfaction in being able to do that. And so for example, when COVID broke, you know, I started covering COVID, in December of 2019, right, there’s this thing going around China, it’s a thing, we’re gonna have to talk about it. And I did a story on COVID in February of 2020. And, you know, remember, the country started lockdown in March, much. So a month before, and I did a posting video saying, Listen, this is a thing, it’s going to come here, we have to pay attention to it. They’re not being hysterical when they say this is important. And somebody messaged me in my audience, and one of the best things about what I do is I’m in conversation with the audience now, which never happened before, right? I’m sure you have this to where you actually hear through social media. What are people’s questions? Totally. So this woman messages me, and she says, I’m a huge fan. I followed you from the beginning, but I’m very disappointed in you today. Well, I think gets your attention.

Kara Goldin 17:18
Right? Of course,

Jessica Yellin 17:21
Isaac, what’s what’s okay? She said, I’m an American living in Italy, and you need to understand what’s happening here. You are underplaying COVID. You need to warn America what’s coming, it will come there. It is serious. And then she started sending me video from their ICUs, which at the time looked like a warzone. They were rationing care. I mean, it was a horror film. She was sending me the daily death toll every night, she was leaving me voicemails about the horrors that were ravaging Italy. And I went on Instagram. And I said, I told a little bit about this. And I said, I hope I’ve earned your trust for the last year plus, by giving you very calm news, without exaggeration, and without emotional access, so that when I say to you, there is a crisis coming, you believe me. And what I’m telling you is that there is a virus that is coming here that is going to change our lives, and we need to take it seriously starting now. And that’s the kind of thing and I you know, then I really started covering COVID and personally went into lockdown about a week before the rest of everybody. But the advantage to doing news in a calm way that built that doesn’t trigger emotional reactions unnecessarily? Is that when something is that important, you have the trust, to get people’s attention and move everyone to action. And for me, I think that’s part of what we’ve allowed to get eroded is because we dip into so much manipulation gratuitously, right, we ask people to expend their emotional energy when they don’t need to, that when it’s time for peoples to really engage. It’s a little like cried wolf, nobody knows what’s real. And so part of what I’m trying to do here is sort of differentiate between the mountains in the mole hills real time,

Kara Goldin 19:11
that was one of the big stories for you, I mean, that you were ahead of it. Do you think there’s just a lot of conversation before people will bring that on to, you know, CNN or Fox News or whatever be? Do you think you have that advantage to be able to make those decisions faster? Right, and in order to see what the responses to it?

Jessica Yellin 19:32
Yes, absolutely. I mean, the best part of what I do is that I get to decide every day what counts as news. It’s also the worst part of what I do, because some days I’m like, Ah, yeah, but you know, at those moments, I don’t have to feel like people you know, sometimes people will not like what I’ve reported or how I’ve said it, and I’m you know, then you don’t have to follow me like, I’m coming to you from a place point of view, which is, you know, I’ve had this training, I know how to vet a story, I want to give you information that you can act on and that matters in your life. And you can like it or hate it. But when I make a decision, I’m going to move with it. And I definitely can be more nimble. And, you know, I can take a risk like this might not rate that well. But my audience is committed to me. So I can take that risk, right? Maybe at a major network, they don’t want to drive on a story that’s not going to rate well, until they have to.

Kara Goldin 20:32
Definitely. So you’ve gone outside of Instagram, you’re on YouTube. And obviously, you you’re taking it into podcasts. I mean, it’s it’s you’ve done quite a bit. I you know, I have to say, I’m really when I was doing some research on, on news, news, not noise, I was really surprised that you started on Instagram, because I think Instagram to so many people is not really about information. It’s like it’s about pictures. It’s about I don’t know, like it, just it and yet you got the traction there, which is, which is amazing. I mean, that’s that is pretty great. And do you see this as? I mean, I don’t What lessons do you learn from that?

Jessica Yellin 21:19
So I, again, I picked Instagram, because there was not a lot of information there. You know, and I kind of thought this is a more clean space to enter. I, you know, the bottom line in the media business is we have to find ways to reach an audience without algorithms interrupting us. And so for me, I think newsletters and podcasts right now are really important. And I have been really focused on building the newsletter audience, and that’s going really well. And also, as you mentioned, podcasts. The reason that’s important is because there are days where you just see all of a sudden, they turn it up, they turn it down on these social media platforms, all of a sudden, you’re like, you know, we have more than half a million obsessed followers, but only what is it 10% of them are fed the content on the platform at any given time. So we have to find ways, especially in the information business to reach an audience directly. And I also think it’s important in this part of what I do to to teach the audience that they have to get in the habit of paying for content they want, and especially when it’s substantive journalism, so it doesn’t have to be a lot of money. But you know, I’ll get members, the audience saying to me, You posted an article from the New York Times and there’s a paywall. Can you give me a free article, and I’ll say, you can Google this and find something similar, I’m sure for free. But you also I’d encourage you to pay for your content. They’re doing important work. And so part of the part of what I’m doing is like trying to do media literacy training real time and tell people who are not super engaged with the news. This, this is a value and important to us. So weird, long winded way to say, I really think growth areas are places where we can reach an audience directly.

Kara Goldin 23:12
Yeah, absolutely. So you wrote a book called savage news, which I mentioned at the beginning. I’m super, super excited to pick up that. So was that based on you, or what? Like, tell me a little bit more about that.

Jessica Yellin 23:31
So I it’s a story about a young, driven and idealistic reporter who ends up covering a circus of a White House and has to figure out how to get real news through a crazy reality show universe on cable news. So she’s pitted against the guy in her office competing for the same job. They’re rated on their cue scores and their ratings. They’re scored on their you know, who’s going to get the job is based on all the data and algorithms about their cue score and ratings. And wild and absurd things are happening in the White House. It’s a satire, it is funny, it is sort of a beach read about a young woman at work, and I call it sort of, it’s about reporting while female. So it’s a light read about, you know, trying to get the job done at work when you’re an ambitious woman.

Kara Goldin 24:21
How did you decide to write a book?

Jessica Yellin 24:23
I always want you know, I mentioned at the beginning, I wanted to be a novelist like Jackie Collins or Judith Krantz. So I always thought I do it. And then when I left CNN, I thought, well, I’m writing this novel, and it’s gonna be like, effortless because I’ve always wanted to do it. And then I sat down and I ended up writing out like, endless series of vignettes. But I, you know, you had to figure out how do you actually make a plot and a storyline so I threw myself into learning what it is to build the structure of a novel and I did that for a good two years, you know, where I got some downtime and decompressed and wrote that was so much fun. Love and I feel very emotionally connected to the main character Natalie savage who struggles with her hair like I do. Oh,

Kara Goldin 25:06
that’s I love it. You and me both. So for sure that whenever I when I could start wearing my hair in a ponytail, I ended up doing that a lot more I think these days so for sure so well thank you so much, Jessica. This has been so fun to hear a lot more about your journey. And obviously people can go to on Instagram Jessica Yellin, right. Is that the best place to find it? And where do people get connected to your newsletter as well that you mentioned? You can

Jessica Yellin 25:39
find the newsletter at news not But you can also Google News not noise at bulletin. It’s a newsletter platform and the news not noise podcast and we have a channel on YouTube as you mentioned, and you can find me on Twitter at Jessica Yellin.

Kara Goldin 25:54
That’s awesome. So, so great. Well, thank you. And thanks, everybody, for listening. We are here every Monday and Wednesday with the Kara Goldin show and if you would please subscribe to this podcast give this episode five stars on Apple, Spotify or your favorite platform. And you can also follow me on all social channels at Kara Goldin with an AI and finally, if you haven’t picked up a copy of my book on daunted, please do talks about the journey that I’ve been through and building my company hint and more and of course pick up a case of hint or a bottle of Hinton local stores. Can’t even believe I started this company almost 17 years ago now. It’s it’s absolutely crazy. So anyway, thanks, everybody. Goodbye for now. Have a great rest of the week. Thanks, Jessica.

Jessica Yellin 26:48
Thank you. Thank you.

Kara Goldin 26:50
Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book calm and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening